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This is a problem I’ve never had to deal with yet watching a few friends recently start new websites has made me realize that getting a brand new site to be discovered (indexed, listed) by the search engines can be a difficult task. In my case since I’ve been operating online for so long whenever I launch a new site I simply link to if from my existing sites knowing in confidence that Google, Yahoo! and MSN Search will quickly index the site. But what do you do to get a site indexed if you have no existing portfolio of sites already established to take advantage of?
First you must understand how exactly the search engines find websites and index content. In order for your website to show up in a search result your pages must exist in the search engine’s index. Each search engine has an absolutely massive index (let’s not talk about comparing index sizes, it’s like a search engine mid-life crisis joke waiting to happen) and it’s constantly updated every minute of every day. The search engines have what are called bots or crawlers or spiders, basically computers that ‘pretend’ to be browsers surfing the web devouring content like hungry monsters. There job is to make sure the search engines have the most up to date index of webpages possible so that when a person uses a search engine they get the most relevant response available. Obviously it’s a lot more complicated than that but I’m into simple explanations and that’s really all you need to know.
Your goal is to get the little spider to come visit your site and index every page of content so as to maximize your search engine results page performance. In order for a spider to crawl the web and visit your site there must be an incoming link pointing to it. So what’s the best way to accomplish this? Read on…
One of the paths of least resistance to get an incoming link is to use a directory. Directories exist to simply list websites, usually broken down by category. All you need to do is fill out a form and depending on whether submissions are manually or automatically approved, your link will show up in the directory with a period of time, usually 24 hours.
The problem with directories is they are essentially link farms, no content and lots of outbound links. Consequently they usually have very little clout in the search engines and since your link is sitting in amongst possibly thousands of other links the little search engine spiders may never find your site.
In order to maximise your chance of success using this technique choose some of the higher profile directories. If you read this post – Free Traffic From Free Directories – you will find a link to a solid listing of reputable directories that you can submit your site to.
This strategy is a delicate one. You don’t ever want to SPAM – purposely post just to mention your website without contributing anything of value. Even if you think you are contributing something of value by linking to your site chances are your post will be deleted since people generally have a thing against self promotion, no matter how valuable your self promotion may be (or you think it may be).
The best way to go about this is to have a signature file (most forums have a function for this) that allows a few lines of self promotion to be included at the end of your posts. Enter the community, get involved in the discussion and contribute. Now obviously you will have more knowledge to draw from if you pick communities based on topics you are familiar with and preferably are relevant to your site. Not only do you improve your chance of search engine spiders finding your site, you might get some real humans clicking your signature and visiting your site as a bonus (this is in fact a good general online marketing strategy to get more traffic to your site – I use it regularly).
A note about blog commenting – thanks to the NoFollow tag which many blogs have on by default, your comments will not be followed by the Google spider. Read this article – Trackbacking Lies – How rel=Ã¢â‚¬ÂnofollowÃ¢â‚¬Â Stops Spreading the Love – for information about – for information about the NoFollow tag.
A better strategy with blogs, albeit a more labor intensive one, is to set up a blog yourself and start writing up good content. Head to some similar blogs talking about similar topics to your market, join in the conversation by posting relevant comments and you may find some other bloggers will link back to your blog. Most blog commenting systems allow commenters to make their name clickable to a website (my blog does this) so people will read your comment and then click your name to visit your website. When they come visiting and they find some good interesting content they may link to you in a blog post. If a popular enough blog links to you that will be all it takes to get the search engine spiders to find your site. Mission complete.
This technique is easy enough to implement but faces the same issues as directories because so many people make use of it you may get lost in the crowd. You can go to a site like PRWeb, submit your press release about the news of your new website launch and they will publish it for journalists to make use of. A good press release may even circulate all over the Internet but at worst you will be at least published on PRWeb (there are others PR sites out there – try a search for “press release distribution” or similar).
I won’t go into too much detail about how to write a good press release, that’s whole article in itself, just remember to cover the who, what, when, where and why and try to come up with an interesting human interest angle. Note that this strategy is also a very good general marketing promotion technique so it might be worth doing simply for the experience and testing anyway.
For the more technically savvy out there Google provides a sitemap submission system that gives you the tools to directly communicate with Google to let the search engine know when your site updates and ensure your entire site is indexed. This is only available for Google.
Most search engines provide a facility to submit your site manually. Now while this may end getting your site indexed it really is just about a useless activity and could even slow down the process of becoming indexed. Remember that search engines rely on links to find, and more importantly, to evaluate sites (read my articles on search engine optimization if this is a new concept to you). Get yourself one relevant quality incoming link and that will do a lot more to get your site indexed quickly than manual submission ever could.
Some search engines offer a form of paid inclusion service that will speed up the process of getting your site indexed. Personally I think this is a waste of money. It might get you in the door but it won’t have you ranking highly for any search terms. It’s like opening a door to let you join the end of a very long queue. In order to advance up the queue you need to get incoming links. Incoming links will also open that door for you for free, so paid inclusion is really a waste of money and time. Focus on incoming links.
Link love is a relatively easy thing to be on the receiving end of. You have probably heard of the favor bank, the social currency of our world. You can open an account with almost anyone by making a deposit by simply doing them a favor. Maybe you’re really good at graphic design so you can create a logo, or perhaps you’re an accountant so you can offer tax advice, or a lawyer could look over a contract or, well you get the picture. You can then make a withdrawal by asking for a link to your website. Favor currency flows quite freely and can easily be accrued by doing good deeds.
If you don’t feel like using the favor bank you can always try the other currency, cold hard cash, and buy some text link ads on other sites. A $50 link on a prominent site for a month should do the trick to get your site indexed. This is the rich man’s answer though and really should not be applied if your goal is only to get indexed, there are so many free ways to do it it’s hard to justify spending the cash. However if it forms part of an overall online marketing strategy that you intend to put into place anyway you may as well start spending straight away and kill two birds with one stone.
I’ve only barely scratched the surface of the many ways you can get your site indexed. Really it’s one of the easiest tasks, so don’t stress about it for too long. If you have the intention of putting into place smart online marketing practices and learn as you implement, then the initial indexing step will not concern you. The overall search engine optimization process takes a lot longer and you will quickly realise that just getting into the index is the very start of a long hard push, trying to raise your website from the very bottom of the index to the top result pages for your key terms.
Search Engine Optimizer